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Judge Freezes Assets Of Former PUCO Chair Linked To Nuclear Bailout

FBI agents carry boxes out of the Columbus home of then-Public Utilities Commission Chair Sam Randazzo on November 16, 2020.
Dan Konik
Ohio Public Radio
FBI agents carry boxes out of the Columbus home of then-Public Utilities Commission Chair Sam Randazzo on November 16, 2020.

A Franklin County court has frozen $8 million in assets of the former head of Ohio’s utility regulator.

Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio leader Sam Randazzo has not been charged but FirstEnergy has admitted to bribing him as part of a nuclear power plant bailout scandal that has rocked the Statehouse in July 2020.

Randazzo is accused, in a civil suit, of receiving a $4.3 million dollar bribe from FirstEnergy as part of the House Bill 6 scandal.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Randazzo appeared to have been shifting assets around. So Yost said he went to court to keep Randazzo from selling or transferring personal property before the civil case is decided.

“It looks like some of the assets that were liquidated – the money came into an account and may have already been transferred elsewhere,” Yost said.

The attorney general said Randazzo has transferred his home to his son and sold four other properties worth $4.8 million.

Last week, Yost Yost amended his civil suit filed against FirstEnergy and former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to include Randazzo and former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones.

FirstEnergy said it paid a bribe of $4.3 million dollars to Sam Randazzo before he became chair of the PUCO in February 2019. The nuclear bailout was signed into law later that year.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he didn't know about the bribe until late 2020, but insists that Randazzo's past work with FirstEnergy was common knowledge.

Federal prosecutors say FirstEnergy funneled millions of dollars to a 501(c)4 which was controlled by Householder. According to the charges, Householder used that money for personal and political gain, and then pushed for passage of HB6, a nuclear bailout bill.

Two people accused in that case, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Householder strategist Jeff Longstreth, have pleaded guilty. The 501(c)4, Generation Now, has also accepted a plea deal. Lobbyist Neil Clark was also facing charges, but died by suicide in March. Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges have both maintained their innocence.

Last month, FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million penalty after entering into a deferred prosecution agreement for the justice department.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.